Book 1 Chapter 10
Why we are not bidden to burn Incense and to sacrifice the Fruits of the Earth to God as were the Men of Old Time.
I SHOULD give the following reply to those who ask why we do not sacrifice animals to Almighty God, as the men of God of old did, whom we claim to imitate. Greek ideas, and what is actually found in the sacred books of the Hebrews, do not agree about the cultus of the ancient primitive men. The Greeks say that early men did not ever sacrifice animals, nor burn incense to the gods, but “herbage, which they lifted up in their hands as the bloom of the productive power of nature,” and burnt grass and leaves and roots in the fire to the sun and the stars of heaven. And that in the next stage men launching far into wickedness stained the altars with the sacrifice of animals, and that this was a sacrifice sinful, unrighteous, and quite displeasing to God. For man and beast in no way differ in their reasonable soul. So they said that those who offer animals are open to the charge of murder, the soul being one and the same in man and brute. This was the view of the ancient Greeks, but it does not agree with the Hebrew Scriptures. They record that the first men, as soon as they were created, honoured God with animal sacrifices at the very creation of their life. For they say:
“And it came to pass after some days that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice to the Lord. And Abel also brought of the first-born of his sheep.. . . And God looked upon Abel and his gifts. But Cain and his sacrifices be regarded not.”
Here you will understand that he who sacrificed an animal is said to have been more accepted by God than he who brought an offering of the fruits of the earth. Noah again brought to the altar his first-fruits of all clean cattle, and of all clean fowls; Abraham also is described as sacrificing: so that if we accept the evidence of Holy Scripture, the first sacrifices thought of by the ancient men of God were those of animals.
And this thought, I hold, was not due to accident, nor was its source in man, but it was divinely suggested. For when they saw since they were holy, brought nigh to God, and enlightened by the Divine Spirit in their souls that there was need of great stress on the cleansing of the sons of men, they thought that a ransom was due to the source of life and soul in return for their own salvation. And then as they had nothing better or more valuable than their own life to sacrifice, in place of it they brought a sacrifice through that of the unreasoning beasts, providing a life instead of their own life. They did not consider this was sinful or unrighteous. They had not been taught that the soul of the brutes was like man’s, which has discourse of reason: they had only learned that it was the animal’s blood, and that in the blood is the principle of life, which they offered themselves, sacrificing as it were to God one life instead of another.
Moses makes this abundantly clear, when he says:
“For the life of all flesh is the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your sins: for the blood shall make atonement for the soul. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood.”
Note carefully in the above the words, “I gave to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for the blood shall make atonement for the soul.”
He says clearly that the blood of the victims slain is a propitiation in the place of human life. And the law about sacrifices suggests that it should be so regarded, if it is carefully considered. For it requires him who is sacrificing always to lay his hands on the head of the victim, and to bear the animal to the priest held by its head, as one offering a sacrifice on behalf of himself. Thus he says in each case:
“He shall bring it before the Lord. And he shall lay his hands on the head of the gift.”
Such is the ritual in every case, no sacrifice is ever brought up otherwise. And so the argument holds that the victims are brought in place of the lives of them who bring them. In teaching that the blood of the brutes is their life, it in no way implies that they share in the essence of thought and reason, for they are composed of matter and body, in the same way as the vegetation of the earth and plants. Thus Moses tells that God said in one creative word:
“Let the earth bring forth herb of grass and the fruit tree.”
And again in like manner:
“Let the earth bring forth four-footed things, and creeping things, and wild beasts of the earth after their kind.”
We must, therefore, regard the brutes as akin in kind and nature and essence to the vegetation of the earth and the plants, and conclude that those who sacrifice them commit no sin. Noah indeed was told to eat flesh, as the herb of the field.
While then the better, the great and worthy and divine sacrifice was not yet available for men, it was necessary for them by the offering of animals to pay a ransom for their own life, and this was fitly a life that represented their own nature. Thus did the holy men of old, anticipating by the Holy Spirit that a holy victim, dear to God and great, would one day come for men, as the offering for the sins of the world, believing that as prophets they must perform in symbol his sacrifice, and shew forth in type what was yet to be. But when that which was perfect was come, in accordance with the predictions of the prophets, the former sacrifices ceased at once because of the better and true Sacrifice.
This Sacrifice was the Christ of God, from far distant times foretold as coming to men, to be sacrificed like a sheep for the whole human race. As Isaiah the prophet says of him:
“As a sheep he was led to slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before her shearers.”
And he adds:
“4. He bears our sins and is pained for us; yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering and in affliction. 5. Hut he was wounded on account of our sins, and he was made sick on account of our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripe we are healed. … 6. And the Lord hath given him up for our iniquities … .9 for he did no sin himself, nor was guile found in his mouth.”
Jeremiah, another Hebrew prophet, speaks similarly in the person of Christ: “I was led as a lamb to the slaughter.”
John Baptist sets the seal on their predictions at the appearance of our Saviour. For beholding Him, and pointing Him out to those present as the one foretold by the prophets, he cried: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Since then according to the witness of the prophets the great and precious ransom has been found for Jews and Greeks alike, the propitiation for the whole world, the life given for the life of all men, the pure offering for every stain and sin, the Lamb of God, the holy sheep dear to God, the Lamb that was foretold, by Whose inspired and mystic teaching all we Gentiles have procured the forgive ness of our former sins, and such Jews as hope in Him |58 are freed from the curse of Moses, daily celebrating His memorial, the remembrance of His Body and Blood, and are admitted to a greater sacrifice than that of the ancient law, we do not reckon it right to fall back upon the first beggarly elements, which are symbols and likenesses but do not contain the truth itself. And any Jews, of course, who have taken refuge in Christ, even if they attend no longer to the ordinances of Moses, but live according to the new covenant, are free from the curse ordained by Moses, for the Lamb of God has surely not only taken on Himself the sin of the world, but also the curse involved in the breach of the commandments of Moses as well. The Lamb of God is made thus both sin and curse—sin for the sinners in the world, and curse for those remaining in all the things written in Moses’ law. And so the Apostle says: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”; and “Him that knew no sin, for our sakes he made sin.”For what is there that the Offering for the whole world could not effect, the Life given for the life of sinners, Who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb to the sacrifice, and all this for us and on our behalf? And this was why those ancient men of God, as they had not yet the reality, held fast to their symbols. This is exactly what our Saviour teaches, saying:
“Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”
And we, who have received both the truth, and the archetypes of the early copies through the mysterious dispensation of Christ, can have no further need for the things of old.
He then that was alone of those who ever existed, the Word of God, before all worlds, and High Priest of every creature that has mind and reason, separated One of like passions with us, as a sheep or lamb from the human flock, branded on Him all our sins, and fastened on Hirn as well the curse that was adjudged by Moses’ law, as Moses foretells: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This He suffered “being made a curse for us; and making himself sin for our sakes.”And then “He made him sin for our sakes who knew no sin,”and laid on Him all the punishments due to us for our sins, bonds, insults, contumelies, scourging, and shameful blows, and the crowning trophy of the Cross. And after all this when He had offered such a wondrous offering and choice victim to the Father, and sacrificed for the salvation of us all, He delivered a memorial to us to offer to God continually instead of a sacrifice.
This also the wondrous David inspired by the Holy Spirit to foresee the future, foretold in these words:
“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my calling. 2. And he brought me up out of a pit of misery, and from miry clay. And he set my feet on a rock and ordered my steps aright. 3. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God.”
And he shews clearly what “the new song” is when he goes on to say:
“7. Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not ; but a body hast them prepared me |; whole burnt-offering; and sin offering thou didst take no pleasure in. 8. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God, I desired.”
And he adds: “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation.” He plainly teaches that in place of the ancient sacrifices and whole burnt-offerings the incarnate presence of Christ that was prepared was offered. And this very thing He proclaims to his Church as a great mystery expressed with prophetic voice in the volume of the book. As we have received a memorial of this offering which we celebrate on a table by means of symbols of His Body and saving Blood according to the laws of the new covenant, we are taught again by the prophet David to say:
“5. Thou hast prepared a table before me in the face of my persecutors. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and thy cup cheers me as the strongest (wine).”
Here it is plainly the mystic Chrism and the holy Sacrifices of Christ’s Table that are meant, by which we are taught to offer to Almighty God through our great High Priest all through our life the celebration of our sacrifices, bloodless, reasonable, and well-pleasing to Him. And this very thing the great prophet Isaiah wonderfully foreknew by the Holy Spirit, and foretold. And he therefore says thus:
“O Lord, my God, I will glorify thee, I will hymn thy name, for thou hast done marvellous things.”
And he goes on to explain what these things so truly “wonderful” are:
“And the Lord of Sabaoth shall make a feast for all the nations. They shall drink joy, they shall drink wine, they shall be anointed with myrrh (on this mountain). Impart thou all these things to the nations. For this is God’s counsel upon all the nations.”
These were Isaiah’s “wonders.”the promise of the anointing with ointment of a good smell, and with myrrh made not to Israel but to all nations. Whence not unnaturally through the chrism of myrrh they gained the name of Christians. But he also prophesies the “wine of joy “to the nations, darkly alluding to the sacrament of the new covenant of Christ, which is now openly celebrated among the nations. And these unembodied and spiritual sacrifices the oracle of the prophet also proclaims, in a certain place:
“Offer to God the sacrifice of praise, and give the Highest thy vows: And call upon me in the clay of thy affliction, and I will deliver thee, and thou shall glorify me.”
“The lifting up of my hands is an evening sacrifice.”And once more: “The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit.”
And so all these predictions of immemorial prophecy are being fulfilled at this present time through the teaching of our Saviour among all nations. Truth bears witness with the prophetic voice with which God, rejecting the Mosaic sacrifices, foretells that the future lies with us:
“Wherefore from the rising of the sun unto the setting my name shall be glorified among the nations. And in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering.”
We sacrifice, therefore, to Almighty God a sacrifice of praise. We sacrifice the divine and holy and sacred offering. We sacrifice anew according to the new covenant the pure sacrifice. But the sacrifice to God is called “a contrite heart.””A humble and a contrite heart thou wilt not despise.”Yes, and we offer the incense of the prophet, in every place bringing to Him the sweet-smelling fruit of the sincere Word of God, offering it in our prayers to Him. This yet another prophet teaches, who says: “Let my prayer be as incense in thy sight.”
So, then, we sacrifice and offer incense: On the one hand when we celebrate the Memorial of His great Sacrifice according to the Mysteries He delivered to us, and bring to God the Eucharist for our salvation with holy hymns and prayers; while on the other we consecrate ourselves to Him alone and to the Word His High Priest, devoted to Him in body and soul. Therefore we are careful to keep our bodies pure and undefiled from all evil, and we bring our hearts purified from every passion and stain of sin, and worship Him with sincere thoughts, real intention, and true beliefs. For these arc more acceptable to Him, so we are taught, than a multitude of sacrifices offered with blood and smoke and fat.
Book 10 Chapter 1
From Psalm xl.
Of Judas the Traitor, and His Fellow-Conspirators against Christ.
[Passage quoted, Ps. xl. 1-12.]
As it has been supposed by some that the Book of Psalms merely consists of hymns to God and sacred songs, and |192 that we shall look in vain in it for predictions and prophecies of the future, let us realize distinctly that it contains many prophecies, far too many to be quoted now, and it must suffice for proof of what I say to make use of two Psalms ascribed to Asaph, written in the time of David. For Asaph was one of the Temple Musicians then, as is stated in the Book of Chronicles, and was inspired by the Divine Spirit to speak the Psalms inscribed with his name. And what do these Psalms include? Predictions of the siege of Jerusalem, the royal city of the Jewish race, which took place nearly five hundred years after the prediction. For we read in the 73rd Psalm, inscribed “A Psalm of understanding for Asaph”:
“Wherefore hast thou rejected us, O God, for ever? Wherefore is thy wrath kindled against the sheep of thy pasture? 2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed of old, and hast ransomed as the rod of thy inheritance; this Mount Zion wherein thou hast dwelt. 3. Lift up thine hands against their pride unto the end: what things hath the enemy done evilly in thy sanctuaries, 4. and they that hate thee have boasted in the midst of thy Feast: 5. they have set up their banners for signs, ignorantly as it were in the entrance above. They cut down its doors at once with axes as in a wood of trees, they have broken it down with hatchet and stone-cutter. 7. They have burnt thy sanctuary to the ground with fire, and have profaned even with the ground the dwelling-place of thy name.”
This is in Psalm lxxiii.; and Psalm lxxviii. of Asaph contains this:
“O God, the Gentiles have entered into thine inheritance, and defiled thy holy temple; they have made Jerusalem a store-house of fruits, they have given the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat for the birds of the air, the flesh of thy saints to the beasts of the fields.”
The first of these passages, I mean the one from Psalm lxxiii., was spoken in David’s reign before the building of . Solomon’s Temple, and it was only fulfilled the first time by the siege by the Babylonians, and the second time in the Roman war against the Jews. For what was predicted and proclaimed in the said Psalms by Asaph was brought to pass in the destruction of the first and second Temples. And the second passage, from Psalm lxxviii., was fulfilled in the time of Antiochus, called Epiphanes, who being King of Syria entered Jerusalem, polluted the Temple, destroyed (b) the Altar, and in his endeavour to compel the Jews to hellenize, slew countless men and women who were martyrs for their law and their father’s religion, and he inflicted all sorts of punishments on them. It was therefore to that time, and to Antiochus’ successors who emulated his deeds, that Asaph’s prophecies in Psalm lxxviii. refer. And the Book of those called Maccabees confirms what I say, which has this passage:
“And to Jakeimon and Bacchides there came a (c) deputation of scribes asking for justice.” And it proceeds to say: “And he sware to them saying, We will not bring evil on yourselves and your friends. And they believed him. And he took of them sixty men and slew them in one day, according to the word of Asaph, which he wrote, They gave the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat for the birds of the air, and the flesh of thy saints to the beasts of the land, their (d) blood have they poured out like water on every side of Jerusalem, and there was no man to bury them.”
If these events were thus predicted and fulfilled, it is not surprising that in the same way the oracle quoted from Psalm xl. should announce what would happen in connection with the plot on our Saviour, though not all men should understand, that He being the Word of God, Wisdom, Life, and the True Light, and possessing all the wealth of the good, for our sakes became poor, taking our flesh, and being made like in kind to mortal man and beggars, taking on Him the form of a slave and a poor man, and most of all when He fulfilled the Psalmist’s prophecy. He that understands these sayings to refer to Himself, naturally is blessed at the beginning of the Psalm, as receiving the written promise.
So it proceeds in the rest to speak in the person of a poor man and a beggar, that is to say of our Saviour Who for our sakes became poor: “I said, Lord, have mercy on me.” And John, the Evangelist, is an independent witness that the words of this Psalm are spoken in the Person of our Saviour. For he records, that:
“Jesus once took a towel and girded himself, and washed the feet of his disciples and said, I know whom I have chosen. But that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth with me, the same hath lifted his heel against me.”
For He made it clear there that the Scripture referred (b) to was the Psalm before us, in which it is said: “For the man of my peace, in whom I trusted, he that ate of my bread hath raised his heel against me.” He it is, then, Who says at the beginning: “I said, Lord, have pity on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee,” and speaks through the whole Psalm. Symmachus gives a clearer rendering of these words, as follows:
“When I said, O Lord, have pity on me, heal my soul, even if I have sinned against thee, my enemies have spoken evil against me, when shall he die and (c) his name perish? And when he comes to gaze on me his heart speaks vanity, it gathers unrighteousness on itself: and when he goes out he tells it. All they that hate me have whispered against me with one consent, conceiving evil concerning me. An unrighteous word is poured out within them, and when he fall may he never rise up. Yea, even the man who was at peace with me, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, has magnified himself against me accordingly. But thou, O Lord, pity me, and raise (d) me, that I may reward them. By this I shall know that thou wishest it, if my enemy does not revile me. Thou hast defended me because of my innocence, and shall set me before thee for ever.”
And Aquila is in exact agreement with Symmachus. With regard first to the words which are apparently said in the Person of our Saviour: “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee,” you will notice in Symmachus they are not so rendered, but thus: “Heal my soul, even if I have sinned against thee.” And He speaks thus, since He shares our sins. So it is said: “And the Lord hath laid on him our iniquities, and he bears our sins.” Thus the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, became a curse on our behalf:
“Whom, though he knew no sin, God made sin for our sake, giving him as redemption for all, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
But since being in the likeness of sinful flesh He condemned sin in the flesh, the words quoted are rightly used. And in that He made our sins His own from His love and benevolence towards us, He says these words, adding further on in the same Psalm: “Thou hast (b) protected me because of my innocence,” clearly shewing the impeccability of the Lamb of God. And how can He make our sins His own, and be said to bear our iniquities, except by our being regarded as His body, according to the apostle, who says: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members?” And by the rule that “if one member suffer all the members suffer with it,” so when the many members suffer and sin, He too by the laws of (c) sympathy (since the Word of God was pleased to take the form of a slave and to be knit into the common tabernacle of us all) takes into Himself the labours of the suffering members, and makes our sicknesses His, and suffers all our woes and labours by the laws of love. And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, (d) and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our |196 souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee,” and can cry that they who plot against Him, not men only but invisible daemons as well, when they see the surpassing power of His Holy Name and title, by means of which He filled the world full of Christians a little after, think that they will be able to extinguish it, if they plot His death. This is what is proved by His saying: “My enemies have spoken evil of me, saying, When shall he die and his name perish?”
And since they attacked Him with the words of guile, attempting to entangle Him, as Holy Writ bears witness, (b) telling us how different charges and accusations were engineered against Him at different times, He therefore adds: “And if he come to see me, his heart speaks vanity, he heaps unrighteousness on himself; he has gone out, and spoken the same against me.” After this, too, He clearly reveals the vile traitor himself, who, after making a covenant with the rulers of the Jews to betray his master, no more (c) went as he used to the school of His holy teaching, nor went as to His teacher, nor like the others passed His time with the Saviour, but awaited and hunted for an opportunity to lay hands on Him. For this is what he is accused of doing by the Holy Evangelists, of whom Matthew says:
“Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought an opportunity to betray him to them.”
(d) And Mark says:
“And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it they were glad, and promised to give him money: and he sought how he might conveniently betray him.”
And Luke writes thus:
“And Satan entered into Judas that was called Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve, and he departed and spake with the chief priests and scribes, and the captains of the Temple, that he might betray him unto them, and they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he sought opportunity to betray him unto them apart from the multitude.”
So the prophecy before us prophesies the same things, when it says:
“And if he came to see me his heart spake vanity, he gathered iniquity on himself. He went out, and spake the same. Against me all my enemies whispered”;
where Symmachus renders:
“Coming in to spy on me, his heart spake vanity, he heaped unrighteousness upon it: and when he went out he spake against me. All they that hate me whispered with one voice against me.”
Yes, for he alone went into his master as a friend and a disciple, to spy and search out, while he hid his plot in his own heart. And when he went out, he spake against Him (b) at once with many of the same mind, betraying the Saviour to His enemies, and secretly made a pact with the rulers of the Jews, about other things, but of course about money as well, for which he promised to betray Him, and about which he whispered with them. Wherefore it says:
“He went out and spake at once. All my enemies whispered against me, against me they imagined evils. They determined an evil plan against me.”
Perhaps the covenant for the money is meant by the “unjust word” of the prophecy, or perhaps the impious (c) and unjust intentions they had against Him, supposing that He would be extinguished and destroyed after death, and would no longer be reckoned among the living. For such is the meaning of: “When he sleepeth he shall surely never rise up again,” which Symmachus has expressed more clearly: “And falling he will not arise”; where Aquila says: “And whosoever sleep, he shall not rise again.” So far it has spoken generally about all those who conspired (d) against Him at the time of His Passion; but it goes on now to speak of the traitor particularly, as of one of His disciples: “For the man of my peace also, in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Instead of which Symmachus again renders: “And a man, who was at peace with me, in whom I had confidence, who ate of my bread with me, hath magnified himself against me.” For of a truth it is the lowest and most accursed of men who after sharing a master’s table, and the nurture of his instruction, goes wrong and treats his benefactor in the opposite way to which he has been treated himself.
And since the enemies in their plotting said: “When shall he die, and his name perish?” and thought that if he lay down he would never rise up again, therefore our Lord and Saviour praying for the reverse of this, and assured of an unhindered resurrection by His Father, says:
“Lord, have mercy upon me, and raise me up, and I will reward them. In this I know that thou hast favoured me, because my enemy shall not triumph over me.”
And it is quite clear how after His resurrection from the dead immediate judgment, that did not tarry, fell on the conspirators, so that death who was the enemy of His return to life was made ashamed, and they that mocked (b) Him said, “O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory? “And those who have read the history of the times after our Saviour’s resurrection, in Josephus, will remember what troubles fell on the Jews and their rulers, involved in which they received the right reward for what they did to Him. All this, then, that fell upon them was the fulfilment of the prophecy: but our Saviour’s Resurrection from the dead proved to all that in Him the Father was well pleased, as He tells us when He says:
(c) “Have mercy upon me, and raise me up, and I will reward them. By this I know thou hast favoured me, because my enemy doth not triumph over me.”
And notice how in pouring forth this prayer to His God and Father, with what confidence He witnesses boldly to|199 His own sinlessness, although He had said before, “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” But I have (d) already shewn that the words, “I have sinned against thee,” are not to be taken literally, and Symmachus interprets them more clearly when he says, “Heal my soul, even if I have sinned against thee,” as could well be said of our sins, which our Lord and Saviour took upon Himself. Whereas the words, “Thou hast protected me for my innocence,” exhibit the absolute integrity of His nature, to which He traces in His teaching the stability and sureness of His life and His preservation after His Resurrection, when He adds, “Thou hast established me before thee for ever”: or, “And thou wilt establish me before thee for ever,” according to Symmachus.